Our Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology does this by pulling in atmospheric air, then through a series of chemical reactions, extracts the carbon dioxide (CO2) from it while returning the rest of the air to the environment. This is what plants and trees do every day as they photosynthesize, except Direct Air Capture technology does it much faster, with a smaller land footprint, and delivers the carbon dioxide in a pure, compressed form that can then be stored underground or reused.
Our Direct Air Capture technology has four major pieces of equipment that each have industrial precedent and have been widely used in large-scale industries for years. This is how our technology is capable of achieving megaton scale with low scale-up risk and improved cost estimations.
The process starts with an air contactor – a large structure modelled off industrial cooling towers. A giant fan pulls air into this structure, where it passes over thin plastic surfaces that have potassium hydroxide solution flowing over them. This non-toxic solution chemically binds with the CO2 molecules, removing them from the air and trapping them in the liquid solution as a carbonate salt.
The CO2 contained in this carbonate solution is then put through a series of chemical processes to increase its concentration, purify and compress it, so it can be delivered in gas form ready for use or storage. This involves separating the salt out from solution into small pellets in a structure called a pellet reactor, which was adapted from water treatment technology. These pellets are then heated in our third step, a calciner, in order to release the CO2 in pure gas form. The calciner is similar to equipment that’s used at very large scale in mining for ore processing. This step also leaves behind processed pellets that are hydrated in a slaker and recycled back into the system to reproduce the original capture chemical.
There are a number of uses for CO2 captured from the atmosphere through Direct Air Capture. CE is focused on working with partners to deliver two types of large-scale industrial plants.
Direct Air Capture and storage plants offer an affordable solution for removing CO2 from the air at megaton-scale. They are location-independent, so can be built almost anywhere and in most climates. They have flexible configurations and can be sized to suit customer needs, however their economics are most favourable at large, industrial scales. CE’s plants can be built to capture millions of tons of CO2 per year each.
Direct Air Capture and storage plants deliver the capture and permanent storage of atmospheric CO2 at prices competitive in today’s leading markets. There are a number of forms of CO2 storage, but CE’s main focus is to create permanent carbon removal by burying the CO2 deep underground through secure geologic storage.
AIR TO FUELSTM plants combine CE’s Direct Air Capture technology with hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis capability to deliver near carbon neutral synthetic fuel. At these facilities, atmospheric CO2 is captured from the air and converted into synthetic crude. This synthetic crude can then be processed into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that work in existing vehicles and transportation infrastructure without any modifications.
Due to an unlimited feedstock – atmospheric CO2 – AIR TO FUELSTM plants can deliver global-scale quantities of clean fuels to meet growing market demand. These fuels can form an important complement to electric vehicles by providing a clean liquid fuel for transport sectors that are difficult to electrify and that require the high energy density of liquid fuels, such as long-haul transport, marine and aviation.